Belief & Worship Islamic Character Reflections

The Parable of The Prostitute

Photo: Giulio Nesi

As provocative as the title sounds, the following narration is one that constantly inspires me and expands my mind. I relate to you the following:

Abu Huraira radi allahu `anhu (may God have mercy on him) reported Allah’s Messenger ﷺ (peace be upon him) as saying: “There was a dog moving around a well whom thirst would have killed. Suddenly a prostitute from the prostitutes of Bani Isra’il [Children of Israel] happened to see it and she drew water in her shoe and made it drink, and she was pardoned because of this.” (Sahih Muslim, 2245 b)

In another narration:

Narrated Abu Huraira (ra): The Prophet ﷺ said, “While a dog was going round a well and was about to die of thirst, an Israeli prostitute saw it and took off her shoe and watered it. So Allah forgave her because of that good deed.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 3467)

Let that sink in.

Where do I begin with this amazing narration? Within it is a tale of animal rights, female empowerment, and the beautiful ability of our Lord to forgive, regardless of the person or the sin.

We must ask ourselves: how would we treat a woman whom we knew was a sex worker in this day and age? Indeed, these women are greatly looked down upon in our societies. The elephants in the room, they usually shoulder the majority of the blame and stigmatization, regardless of the countless males who fund and take advantage of their line of work.

In Muslim communities in particular, there is a huge (and in my opinion, rather unhealthy) emphasis placed on the chastity and “purity” of a woman. If anything at all, even if it be a rumor, compromises a woman’s reputation or puts her in a tight situation, she is typically isolated, looked down upon, abused, and in extreme instances, even murdered, regardless of whether she was sexually assaulted, taken advantage of, or sells her own body out of a desperate attempt at survival.

This classification and shaming of women within both our greater communities, and specifically our Muslim communities does nothing more than further isolate and abhor women who are already disenfranchised. Rather than considering their context, circumstances, and stories, many people assume, judge, and label. Symbolically and literally disposing of women who, for whatever reason, have already put their bodies out there for disposal.

Is this the Islamic way? No. Is this the human way? No. Take another look at the narrations above.

Firstly, the Prophet ﷺ relates to those around him the story of this woman. We learn that this was a woman of the former people—the Children of Israel. In doing so, he has given voice to a person that may have been perceived by the generations as being unworthy of mention.

Secondly, we must ask ourselves: why does he ﷺ do this? What is it about this woman that made her mention so great and worthy of our time? So much so that I am sitting here today relating it hundreds of years later?

It was what she did—her act. An act that stemmed from a place of selflessness, a place of mercy.

She used the means she had—in this case, her shoe—to nourish a thirsty dog that was on the verge of death. Clearly this was an unsolicited act; the dog did not ask her, nor was she asking for anything in return from it. Instead, she put in the effort to extend the dog mercy, compassion, and life. This is amazing, considering that human beings may have possibly denied her these things due to her “profession”. She gave to an animal what others could not or would not give to her.

And what did this earn her? Forgiveness from her Lord. Paradise. Regardless of the fact that she was a prostitute, it was this act alone that elevated her from amongst her people.

From this story, I derive five major points:

1. Do not belittle deeds

I wonder how many people had walked past that dog ignoring it completely. Maybe they viewed it as unworthy of their time or help. Yet she was able to identify its need and take part in a seemingly small act which led to a mighty reward. We should never overlook the small deeds like picking up litter or smiling at your neighbor. What we view as small may be great in the sight of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exhalted is He).

2. His mercy encompasses your sins

She was a prostitute engaged in a major sin in the eyes of Allah (swt). And yet He forgave her, just like that. This is easy for Allah (swt). Don’t ever lose hope in the mercy of Allah: He is Ar-Rahman (the Merciful), after all! Yes, your sins may be great, but his mercy is far greater. Indeed:

Narrated Abu Huraira (ra): The Prophet ﷺ said, “When Allah created the Creation, He wrote in His Book—and He wrote (that) about Himself, and it is placed with Him on the Throne–‘Verily My Mercy overcomes My Anger.'” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 7404)

Subhan’Allah (glory to God).

3. Stop judging others negatively

This speaks for itself. We never know the rank that someone has in the sight of Allah (swt). Our problem is that we judge based on the exterior; we lack the ability to peer into another’s soul. But He can. And that’s why when we see our brother and sister, whether in faith or humanity, engaged in some type of sin, we make excuses for them, pray for them, and BE there for them. Besides, who are we to judge others just because they sin differently from ourselves? Leave the judging to The Judge.

4. The Standard of Allah (swt)

Last weekend one of my shuyukh (religious scholars) mentioned something very interesting: he said that it is scary to consider that on the Day of Judgment, Allah (swt) will reward/punish us according to His own standard. That is, the deeds that we were very pleased with in this life may mean very little in the next. Likewise, the deeds that we neglected or brushed off as unimportant may very well be the ones that mean the most. Reflect on this and prioritize.

5. The importance of animal rights in Islam

Another reason why I love this narration is because it highlights a very important aspect that we Muslims often neglect or belittle: animal rights. Now, this could be due to our culture and/or upbringing; indeed, in many societies, animals are greatly looked down upon or not even noticed at all! We need to change this way of thinking. We need to honor animals, for they, too, are a creation of Allah (swt). They do not deserve our abuse and neglect. They have feelings; they know.

I hope this reflection has opened your minds in new ways. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what your sin is, do not ever forget that your Lord is ever watching and considering. Do not ever forget that your deeds, both good and bad, are being recorded and that one day, you will be judged according to them.

And lastly do not ever forget to be human. Extend your humanity to all people and all animals. For it is from this extension of your humanity that you may find the forgiveness and mercy that matters the most, His.

And Allah (swt) knows best.

Aside: May Allah (swt) be pleased with Abu Hurayra; through my research for this piece, I kept finding ahadith (narrations) that were narrated by him. And fittingly, his nickname is “Abu Hurayra” or “Father of the Kitten” because he used to keep a kitten in his sleeve. An animal activist from among the Companions, may Allah (swt) be pleased with them all.

About the author


Ubah was born and raised in Western Canada. She received her BSc in Psychology and is currently training as a psychotherapist through a Masters program focused on spiritually-integrated psychotherapy. In her spare time, she engages with her community through running an all-girl’s program focussed on Muslim Canadian identity and broader community involvement. She is passionate about seeking the links between human behavior, psyche, spirituality and Islamic traditions, and the quest for self-actualization and truth. A comprehensive body of her written articles, poetry, and essays can be found on her website,


  • As-salamu alaykum,

    Thank you for another wonderful article I wholeheartedly have to agree with. As for the aspect of animal rights, however, I am stuck with the question of how vegetarianism (or any non-meat diet) might fit within Islam?

    May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) bless you

      • Dear sister Ubah, notice that the Hadith did not say she repented or stopped being a prostitute!!
        we know it is wrong job.. but it highlights the inmense mercy of our Lord God.
        thanks for the article. May Allah, subhanahu wa taala, reward you.

    • You have to understand that people become vegetarians for different reasons. Some of my reasons are completely inline with my islaimc belief. For one, I’m thinking of becoming vegetarian for the sole reason that to highlight the unethical treatment of animals by the hands of muslims and non-muslims when it comes to the food industry. Finding organic, halal pastured, grass-fed meats from farmers is difficult. To me this is showing that I take halal meat seriously and I won’t stand for diluting of the meaning through complete negligence on the part of the suppliers.
      I have not made a decision but I’m thinking solely of making better ethical decisions in terms of what I eat, what i use and what I wear.

      Alhamdhoullilah and God knows best.


      • As-salamu alaykum,

        Thank you all for your comments.

        Mida-k, you have some very good points. Halting the consumption of meat practically guarantees eating halal and not taking part in the unjust suffering of animals.

        As for the nutrients Nooria rightly mentioned, I do know some vegetarians who are healthy and do not take supplements. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) also made us so we might survive without meat, and granted us the ability to make responsible choices.

        JazakAllahu khayr

    • I guess it depends on why you want a meat-free diet. If its just choice you are denying yourself of beneficial nutrients. Allah swt decreed animals for our sustenance. We are omnivores with enzymes specifically for digesting meat, Allah swt made us this way..

  • Salaam Aleikum warahmatullah,
    I absolutely loved LOVED the story. I didn’t know this hadeeth but how great it is indeed. I keep seeing stories about judging others lately and it made me realize I’m a very judgmental person, so these are the reminders I need to see daily subhanAllah. Jazak Allah Khair for sharing your words and thoughts with us, may Allah bless immensely bless you.


    Arent all kafirs who dont believe in Allah going to Jahannam. How about people like Mother Theresa and rachel Corrie will they go to Jannah?

  • Assalamoualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh

    indeed this is a beautiful article. i want to add this ayat to further support this article.

    there is not a moving living creature on earth, nor a bird that flies with its two wings, but are communities like you. we have neglected nothing in the book, then unto their Lord they all shall be gathered

  • Mashallah, this is was beautifully written and extremely beneficial to me. Very simple, yet so many points of benefit to derive from this narration of the Prophet (saw). Thank you for taking the time to highlight each of the many points of reflection to consider from this hadith. One thought I have never reflected upon hearing this hadith, is the care and consideration for animals that is presented… subhanAllah, that is a great lesson to take and one that our community should begin to implement– not only the ethics of morality and humanity towards other humans, but animals as well. Jazaki Allah khair, may Allah bless you and your family, and allow you to continue writing, ameen.

  • Sadly, in certain Asian cultures, Arab and other cultures, a woman who’s been with someone prior to marriage is arrogantly looked down upon — funnily enough even by those guys who themselves have at some points of their life committed the same sin (including the same guy who slept with her). Being male makes one’s sin no less significant that that of the female in the eyes of Allah.

    Even divorced women (who’ve Islamically done nothing wrong) are seen differently by the society than the ‘pure’ ones. See the fuss if an unmarried man were to choose a divorced lady (or sometimes just an unmarried girl older than himself).

    However, I do personally know wise religious men with good character following the Prophet SAAS (who married widows and divorced women) who aren’t following that sexist oppressive society.

    • It is Sunnah for the one who wants to get married to marry a virgin, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to Jaabir, ‘Why not a virgin whom you could play with and she could play with you?’ (agreed upon) – unless there is a reason for which marrying a previously-married woman is better, in which case he should choose such a woman over a virgin, in order to serve that interest.”(Mataalib Uli al-Nuha, 5/9, 10)

      And Allaah knows best.

  • A good reminder.

    However, one point of contention: the author states “And what did this earn her? Forgiveness from her Lord. Paradise.” This is not accurate, as the hadith does not state she was granted Paradise, but forgiveness.

    • Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      It means the same thing. She entered Paradise. If someone is forgiven then they enter Jannah. There is only Jannah or Jahannam. Jannah is for whoever died a Muslim and Jahannam is for disbelievers and sinning Muslims however the latter will eventually come out.

      The author was correct.

  • On animal rights, just last night I was reading through ash-Shu’ara, and thought of something about the rather unique sign of the camel of the Thamud. The Qur’an described Salih criticising the Thamud for their (1)excess and (2) spread of corruption in the land. It occurred to me, that our modern civilisation is very like this – excessive consumption and environmental damage and pollution because of our excess materialism.

    The Thamud challenged Salih for a sign “if you are telling the truth”, as though they don’t believe they are doing the things he accuses them of, i.e. excess and damage. Are we not in denial that our lifestyle is excessive and causing damage to the environment?

    And the sign that was sent to them was a camel who was to have a share of water. I was thinking, perhaps Allah wishes to demonstrate to them that they cannot even share water with a single animal that they’re not exploiting, that they can’t even share a resource with a single free animal, as proof of their excessive greed and disregard for the land. Today, we have to calculate the financial value of nature, in order to justify leaving it alone.

  • Salaam alaykum Kirana
    Your reply was so insightful and put words to much of what I have been thinking about for so long. Masha’Allah.
    This article was really great in so many ways, I am very happy to see animal rights being talked about.

    • Just so you people understand. It is still not permissable to own a dog other than for hunting guarding livestock or security. And Angels do not enter the home in which there is a dog.

  • “Besides, who are we to judge others just because they sin differently from ourselves?”

    Wow, that really hit me. This article is a great reminder and thank you for tying up the story with it’s values. It’s always a treat to hear what values other Muslims derive from these hadiths because maybe someone understands it in a different perspective than I do.

  • Is she was a believer of non believer?
    I’m having a doubt

    “A prostitute saw a dog turning around a well on a hot day; it was panting due to thirst. She took off her shoe, filled it with water and gave the water to the dog. The woman was forgiven due to this deed.” [Muslim, Tawba 155, (2245)]

  • Thank you very much for this. I’m a Christian but am writing something about the kindness to be found in all religions, so we should value and respect them all and see that we have much to unite us. I have been really touched by this and find it beautiful.

  • Well, easy, a person can be vegan upon his or her intention. If they refused to eat because of the way the animal was slaughtered, probably. If they refused to eat because they changed their taste of food, yes. But if they thought eating animal is wrong, it might be forbidden cause Allah had created animal for our source of food.

  • As Muslims we do not “unite” with the kuffar wether you respect us or not. Here is the evidence.
    Let not the believers take the disbelievers as Auliya (supporters, helpers, etc.) instead of the believers, and whoever does that will never be helped by Allah in any way, except if you indeed fear a danger from them. And Allah warns you against Himself (His Punishment), and to Allah is the final return.” – Noble Quran 3:28
    We are not friends.

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